Sensory substitution of elbow proprioception to improve myoelectric control of upper limb prosthesis: experiment on healthy subjects and amputees

Matthieu Guémann, Christophe Halgand, Aurélia Bastier, Céline Lansade, Léo Borrini, Éric Lapeyre, Daniel Cattaert, Aymar de Rugy
Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation. 2022-06-11; :
DOI: 10.1186/s12984-022-01038-y

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Guémann M(1)(2), Halgand C(3), Bastier A(4), Lansade C(4), Borrini L(5), Lapeyre É(5), Cattaert D(3), de Rugy A(3).

Author information:
(1)HYBRID Team, INCIA, CNRS, UMR 5287, Bordeaux, France. .
(2)Unité de Physiologie de l’Exercice et des Activités en Conditions Extrêmes,Département Environnements Opérationnels, Institut de Recherche
Biomédicale des Armées, Brétigny, France. .
(3)HYBRID Team, INCIA, CNRS, UMR 5287, Bordeaux, France.
(4)Institut Robert Merle d’Aubigné, Valenton, France.
(5)Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine Department, Percy Military Hospital, Clamart, France.

BACKGROUND: Current myoelectric prostheses lack proprioceptive information and rely on vision for their control. Sensory substitution is increasingly developed with non-invasive vibrotactile or electrotactile feedback, but most systems are designed for grasping or object discriminations, and few were tested for online control in amputees. The objective of this work was evaluate the effect of a novel vibrotactile feedback on the accuracy of myoelectric control of a virtual elbow by healthy subjects and participants with an upper-limb amputation at humeral level.

METHODS: Sixteen, healthy participants and 7 transhumeral amputees performed myoelectric control of a virtual arm under different feedback conditions: vision alone (VIS), vibration alone (VIB), vision plus vibration (VIS + VIB), or no feedback at all (NO). Reach accuracy was evaluated by angular errors during discrete as well as back and forth movements. Healthy participants’ workloads were assessed with the NASA-TLX questionnaire, and feedback conditions were ranked according to preference at the end of the experiment.

RESULTS: Reach errors were higher in NO than in VIB, indicating that our vibrotactile feedback improved performance as compared to no feedback. Conditions VIS and VIS+VIB display similar levels of performance and produced lower errors than in VIB. Vision remains therefore critical to maintain good performance, which is not ameliorated nor deteriorated by the addition of vibrotactilefeedback. The workload associated with VIB was higher than for VIS and VIS+VIB, which did not differ from each other. 62.5% of healthy subjects preferred the VIS+VIB condition, and ranked VIS and VIB second and third, respectively.

CONCLUSION: Our novel vibrotactile feedback improved myoelectric control of a virtual elbow as compared to no feedback. Although vision remained critical, the addition of vibrotactile feedback did not improve nor deteriorate the control and was preferred by participants. Longer training should improve performances with VIB alone and reduce the need of vision for close-loop prosthesis control.

© 2022. The Author(s).

Auteurs Bordeaux Neurocampus